From the end of the Persian Wars to the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, B.C. 479-431
The object of the proposal was too transparent to deceive so acute a statesman as Themistocles. Athens was not yet, however, in a condition to incur the danger of openly rejecting it; and he therefore advised the Athenians to dismiss the Spartan envoys with the assurance that they would send ambassadors to Sparta to explain their views. He then caused himself to be appointed one of these ambassadors; and setting off straightway for Sparta, directed his colleagues to linger behind as long as possible. At Sparta, the absence of his colleagues, at which he affected to be surprised, afforded him an excuse for not demanding an audience of the ephors. During the interval thus gained, the whole population of Athens, of both sexes and every age, worked day and night at the walls, which, when the other ambassadors at length arrived at Sparta, had attained a height sufficient to afford a tolerable defence. Meanwhile the suspicions of the Spartans had been more than once aroused by messages from the AEginetans respecting the progress of the walls. Themistocles, however, positively denied their statements; and urged the Spartans to send messengers of their own to Athens in order to learn the true state of affairs, at the same time instructing the Athenians to detain them as hostages for the safety of himself and colleagues. When there was no longer any motive for concealment, Themistocles openly avowed the progress of the works, and his intention of securing the independence of Athens, and enabling her to act for herself. The walls being now too far advanced to be easily taken, the Spartans found themselves compelled to acquiesce, and the works were completed without further hindrance.
To Chapter X : Athens in the time of Pericles
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